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‘Alien: Reign of Man’ (review)

Produced by Deanna Grace Congo,
Jennifer George, Khu, Justin Price
Written and Directed by Justin Price
Starring Khu, Torrei Hart,
Deanna Grace Congo, Cameron White

 

I don’t want to be that guy that bashes indie cinema… but I am really finding it difficult to find something good to say about Alien Reign Of Man.

IMDB gives the plot thusly:

Stranded on a distant planet, a team must fight aliens and activate a machine meant to restore Earth to a time before its downfall.

Yeah, that is kind of the “plot” but it’s lost amongst rambling pseudo-meaningful dialog and a nonsensical narrative.

Director/Writer/Producer/Star Justin Price is a filmmaker I can respect for he clearly loves film and loves making films, the problem is he didn’t make a good ones .

Stylistically this film is almost devoid of color for no real reason. It does not aid the story being all bleached and ugly and in fact makes the viewer remark on how bland the film looks. Washed out films do NOT look good, why can’t filmakers understand this? Also director Price seems to think that long “ponderous” shots that just go on and on are artistic when in fact they just had me screaming “DO SOMETHING!!!!” at the screen. Minus the 4 minutes of opening credits and the 10 minutes of end credits this already short 1 hour 25 minute movie is really just over an hour long and if you took out all the pointless shots you would have a 45 minute movie. Sorry, but I am an editor by trade, this really bothers me.

The CGI (of which there is a ton) is almost cartoonish, in that it looks like animation over the backgrounds. If this was a stylistic choice that had been made for the entire film that I can accept, but since it is mainly gadgets and even backgrounds (not to mention the entire bad guy alien race) it is just glaringly out of place.

There are even sound issues. At one point I thought my copy went out of sync because the sound FX were about a half second off from the action on screen but then I noticed the characters speaking were still in sync. Someone just didn’t add the sound FX properly. And this is the reviewer screener so someone watched this and sent it out.

Hell, there are framing issues even. More than once I noticed an actors head getting cut off by the top of the frame and yet there is plenty of room at the bottom of the frame. Like this was shot full frame and perhaps matted to be “widescreen”. Obviously shot hand held there are a few times where a static shot will simply readjust a little. Not like a hand held style natural movement but in a “Cameraman moved when he was not meant to” way.

The acting is passable but you can tell the bulk of the cast are very early in their careers. The script is stilted and all of the characters’ dialog feels like they are reading off of cue cards AND reading the dialog for the first time no less. Zero emotion and the stumbles that come with reading and speaking unfamiliar material. There is a key scene were a character is CLEARLY looking off camera to read her dialog. Look at this image here. She is talking to the other character and yet keeps looking OFF CAMERA and then back to him. Her delivery is very awkward as the actress is READING.

The narrative is another as it is confusing but not in an evocative manner that makes you want to learn more. This is straight out confusing as if we are in chapter 3 of a 5 part story. The film explains nothing of the plot (and yet over-explains things that don’t matter) and has a great instance on using terms we have no grounding for.

“We have to get to Terminus”.

What is Terminus? Screw you.

“Why did you phase?”

What is phasing? Who cares just move on.

“The Order believes that the Spire created all life on our planet”.

Who are the Order? They keep being mentioned but are never explained.

What is the Spire? STOP ASKING THESE THINGS.

“The Eternals will be able to lead us to the Spire on Demo, and to activate it in conjunction with the Spire on earth to help us eliminate Terminus”.

I have no idea what that entire sentence (a major plot point) means. This script is needlessly complicated simply for the sake of being complicated as if that makes it hard SF or something. I wager that Price feels this is a deep script full of meaning and wonder when in fact it’s bloated (while being oddly threadbare) and inane.

The narrative also seems to ask that you just accept it for what it is and stop asking questions. They are on a barren wasteland of a planet, there are literally NO TREES anywhere and then it cuts to a character with a huge campfire filled with obvious branches. Where did they find a tree to cut down? Shut up and just go with it.

I very much feel like this was a film that was shooting it’s first draft and with a cast hired on the day of shooting. The film is too ambitious for it’s own good, it’s trying to make a Sci-Fi epic on the budget of a student film. This should have been a short and not a “feature”.

 

Alien : Reign of Man arrives On Demand on August 1 and DVD November 14.

 

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